Poaching and illegal wildlife trade threaten tourism and development options in Africa
Berlin, Germany, 6th March 2014—Panellists at an event held in Berlin, Germany, during ITB—the world’s largest tourism fair—concurred today that record poaching levels of rhinos and elephants are not only threatening the basis of tourism but also tourism-based development options in Africa.
In his opening remarks, Hon. Moses Kalongashawa, Minister of Tourism and Culture in Malawi, and Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministers responsible for Tourism noted that the issue of poaching is of huge concern and Africa is losing wildlife at record rates each year to poachers and illegal trade. He said this was because of the involvement of organized criminal syndicates in elephant and rhino poaching, with criminals now deploying advanced technologies ranging from night vision scopes, silenced weapons, darting equipment and helicopters, to carry out their missions.
In the following keynote address, Mr Les Carlisle, Group Conservation Manager at &beyond, a conservation-led safari lodge operator in Africa and Asia, reflected on the challenge of poaching from a private sector perspective. He highlighted that poaching presents a critical threat to wildlife-based tourism operations and that the private sector plays an important role in facing this serious challenge. He underlined the importance of working closely with local communities and ensuring long-term income and benefits, which are key to protecting wildlife and sustaining parks. According to Mr Carlisle, “investment in local community development around our company’s wildlife areas is really producing dividends in the intelligence required for pro-active anti-poaching actions.”
Mr Sem Shikongo, Director of Tourism and Gaming at the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and Board Chairperson of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA), confirmed that community-based initiatives in Namibia are already suffering from the impact of poaching and that wildlife crime is depriving Africa of its tourism-based development options.
Klemens Riha of GIZ explained Germany’s innovative approach to help combat poaching and illegal trade of African wildlife. Presenting the collaboration of five German federal ministries through a Project on Combating Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade in Ivory/Rhino-horn, Mr Riha spoke about how effective co-operation is essential to combat such highly organized crime. As GIZ’s Coordinator of the project, he added “Poaching and illegal wildlife trade is not only affecting the conservation of the targeted species, which are already endangered in many places, it is also increasingly threatening the livelihoods and security of the affected human populations.”
Asked about the most important measures to be implemented globally to combat the poaching crisis in Africa in the short and long term, Roland Melisch, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Director for Africa and Europe responded: “The three essential elements needed to fight this crisis are: ramping up anti-poaching measures, shutting down illegal trade routes using state-of-the-art technology along the whole trade chain, and supporting efforts to reduce the demand for illegal African wildlife in Asia.” Organized smuggling syndicates can only be fought by deploying cutting-edge forensic technologies, and by building the capacity of African and Asian law enforcement officers in the use of such modern technology—adapted to the needs on a country by country basis. Furthermore, governmental efforts at supply and demand reduction for illegal wildlife products in Asia need to be strongly supported.
From the perspective of South African National Parks, Joep Stevens, General Manager Strategic Tourism Services said that SANParks is getting more sophisticated in their fight against poaching. “We are now committing to technologically advanced intensive protection zones (IPZs), pro-active intelligence led anti-poaching and creative development of alternative economic choices for communities,” he told the audience.
It became clear that the “Big 5” African wildlife species (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo) are hugely important to the tourism industry in terms of product development as well as marketing. For local people, photo-safaris and controlled trophy hunting tourism adds to the acceptance of protected areas by providing sustainable economic incentives and an alternative to poaching.
Participants concluded that enhanced collaboration of law enforcement staff at national level and beyond is a cornerstone to combat poaching and key to protect future sustainable development options for Africa’s rural areas.
The event was facilitated by Jennifer Seif, Executive Director at Fair Trade Tourism, and jointly organized by the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA) in co-operation with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of and financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
 The project combines the joint efforts of five German federal ministries, i.e., the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the Foreign Office (AA), the Ministry of Finance (BMF) and the Ministry of the Interior (BMI), pooling their particular expertise and resources for joint activities. The project is also cooperating closely with the civil society, particularly with the three international NGOs Frankfurt Zoological Society, TRAFFIC and WWF.